Marital Rape- is that even a crime?- A short story
Meera disconnected the call and chuckled at herself. She ran to the mirror and looked at her image. She was glowing, the blush and pink tinge in her cheeks was so evident.
The doorbell rang and she ran out to answer it. A new set of guests were ushered in. The house was full of people- relatives, friends, and cousins. The constant chatter, music, dhol, the aroma of fresh jalebis and mithais, samosas and kachoris filled in air. Her mother ran from here to there checking if the guests were comfortable and running over to supervise the cook. Her father was busy on the phone discussing details with the wedding hall manager.
Meera's best friend Juhi grabbed her by the arm and took her to the terrace. So you are finally getting married my dearie. I cannot believe it. I am so thrilled I am going to dance the whole night. But hey don't forget the promise we made to each other years back. We will share the details and our first night experience with each other. So you are going first and don't forget your promise. I want to know everything. Meera blushed. Areee it’s not that we will do anything on our first night- we hardly know each other. It’s just a couple of meetings and the marriage was fixed, I am still getting to know him. I wouldn't feel comfortable getting physically intimate yet. I would want us to get to know each other better first.
But is he ok, because I heard guys are quite fast- Juhi winked.
I haven't discussed with him yet, but I don't think he will have an issue.
2 days later the marriage took place with much grandeur. Meera was welcomed into her marital home with much love and affection. Her sister in law gave her 2 glasses of milk and escorted her to her new bedroom.
She shut the door softly and heaved a sigh of relief. She was glad to be alone, she needed some time to unwind. The 2 days of pre wedding ceremonies and the wedding itself had been grand and she felt tired now. She just wished to take off all the jewellery, the heavy lehenga and sleep. She was just about to take off her bangles when the door opened and Praveen entered. She smiled shyly. He came close and held her hand. He took her towards the bed and holding her hand exclaimed" Finally we are man and wife, how much I waited for this day." She looked down shyly and then offered him the glass of milk as per the custom. He gulped it down. "This wedding has been such a tiresome affair" I am feeling so hot and exhausted, saying that he took off his kurta. Meera felt embarrassed and looked down quickly. He sensed her reaction and held her hand again. “Let’s not waste time and get started soon. We need to catch on some sleep too. Tomorrow is a host of other functions, you know right.
Saying that, he took off her chunni and before she could protest started unbuttoning her blouse deftly. She tried to stop him, but he took it as her way of teasing him by acting resistant and that egged him on. Finally when she could take it no longer, she just pushed him aside. He was taken aback and looked at her dumbfounded.
“Meera what the hell is your problem? We are married now? What's wrong in touching my wife? Am I not entitled to sleep with you? I have suppressed my desires for so long just because it was morally not correct before marriage but if you are denying me this after marriage it’s a sin you are committing”.
Meera was stunned to hear this. She did not know that he would blurt out such harsh words. Of course she knew and was equally eager and excited to explore sex after marriage but she wanted to feel comfortable, in love with her partner. It was not just satisfying physical desires but making the first time and each time after that memorable and special. That was only possible when you were ready not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well which she clearly wasn't. Maybe it was different for guys, their carnal desires were much stronger but- how about consent? Would her husband go against her wishes and force her? She pleaded and requested him to listen to her. She told him honestly that she was as eager to explore physical intimacy but wasn't comfortable yet and wanted a few days to get that comfort level. He laughed mockingly as her- “really you are not comfortable. Well I agree we haven't know each other for long and we hardly met after our marriage was fixed but we have all the time my love, we are married now. We will get to know each other slowly that doesn't stop us from having sex, I am your husband not a stranger or a boyfriend who may just use you and throw you. I have taken the vows of marriage with you. Enough of this senseless talk, I do not want to waste my energy, let’s just sleep over it”, he winked at her.
And he pulled her close and started undressing her, she protested but he was stronger. He started kissing her passionately but to her- she felt no passion or love. All she felt was disgust. He was getting excited and high- O Meera you are so beautiful he said feasting on her naked body as he devoured her hungrily. When he entered her, she cried out in pain, trying to back off, he held her mouth firmly so that the voice would not get out of the room, As he pounded her harder and harder, she had given up the fight. A tear trickled down her eyes. This is not what she imagined her first night would be. She wanted it to be the most wonderful experience, something that would be etched as a beautiful memory forever. She had seen heroines in Bollywood movies and had read about how pleasurable sex is, she looked forward to this experience but what had just happened to her- was horrendous. She was raped by her husband- but can that happen? Can a husband rape his lawfully wedded wife? Is it illegal? Or is it that because they are married and he has a right over her body? But how about her wishes and her consent? Doesn't it matter? What if she says no? Doesn't that have any value?
He rolled over and went to sleep once his urges were satisfied but sleep eluded her the whole night- these questions keep torturing her and the memory of what transpired a few hour back kept replaying in her mind. Finally sleep took over.
The next morning she woke up to the shrill sound of the alarm and saw him standing by her side, he smiled at her and planted a kiss on her forehead, she felt sick by his touch. She thought he may have some remorse over last night's events, he may tell her it happened in the heat of the moment but he seemed unperturbed. He chatted with her, joked and asked her to get ready soon as relatives were waiting downstairs for the pooja. She was dumbfounded but quietly went about her work.
That night- as they retired to their room, she was full of fear. She covered her self head to toe with the blanket and when he came, she told him she has a bad head ache and wanted to sleep. He reluctantly agreed but somewhere in the middle of her sleep she felt a hand groping her from behind. Before she could fathom what was happening, he turned her over and began kissing her, while his other hand was already inside her night gown, finding buttons to be unhooked. She tried pushing back and asked him to please not do this, she wasn't liking it but he paid no heed. He left her only when he was done. She rushed to the bathroom and started the tap, she splashed cold water all over her face, necks, arms and started rubbing herself furiously, it felt dirty. So dirty, she wanted to get rid of the dirty feeling. Would she become clean again? The mirror image mocked at her.
This continued every night- she protested, he had his way. After a few days she gave up and just unbuttoned her clothes as soon as she hit the bed, lay down like a corpse and let him do whatever he wanted to her body. From a feeling of disgust and repulse it had gone to a feeling of nothing. She felt absolutely nothing.
As she lay in bed that night after yet another session of lovemaking, she replayed the past few days and what had changed. She was in turmoil and wanted to talk about this to her best friend Juhi - she wanted to share this with someone. Finally she met Juhi after a few days and told her the truth. Juhi was clearly not happy with the way things turned out but she believed that Praveen was not entirely wrong. Is it wrong to make love to your wife? If not you, then who? Would you want him to go to some other woman? He did not even touch you before marriage but if you expect him to do the same after marriages it’s not right. There is no such thing as a husband raping his wife- he is entitled to have a physical relation as much as she is. So stop all this thoughts from clouding your mind and go enjoy your physical relation with him. He is a nice man, kind, funny, respectful, rich, what else do you need? Don’t make an issue out of it now.
She was shocked to hear her best friend's reply- she always thought that her childhood friend who knew her so well would understand her feelings.
After much deliberation she decided to confide in her mother- she did not expect much support but she was shocked when her mother started reprimanding her " What are you talking girl? Have you lost your senses? Damadji is such a gem of a person, how can you put such baseless allegations on him? If your father hears this he will die of a heart attack, After all the money we just spent on your lavish wedding and the mehndi on your hands is still not gone, you talk this rubbish. Listen to what I say and drill it into your head- he is your husband he has every right. There is no such thing as a husband raping his wife. Dare if you bring this out with anyone else. Go and cooperate with him, keep him and his family happy, as a woman that is what your ultimate goal should be.”
She left her maika - feeling more depressed than ever. From that night- Praveen noticed a change in her behavior. She did not resist any more she just did what he wanted, he was happy as he dint have to struggle to get his way any longer.
The questions kept haunting her - Is this love? Isn't this rape? Why isn't this a crime? Why does everyone say he has a right over my body? Don't I have a greater right over my body? Don't I have the right to refuse? What if the tables were turned- he was not keen and I was interested- would I have forced him then? I know I would never. I would have respected his wishes and given him time and space. Why are the scales always imbalanced and tilted against women? Is this a fair world?
These questions haunt not just Meera but many other young women- and the answers are not easy and definitely not in their favor. First of all per law "The IPC" consider marital rape a crime only when the woman is below 15 years of age. So law offers zero recourse to women who do not meet that criteria. But ethically and morally as well - most people are astonished to hear about marital rape- if a husband doesn't sleep with his wife, would you want him to sleep with the neighbor’s wife? They joke. It’s not a funny or light matter- it’s as traumatizing for a wife as is for any other woman who is raped by unknown people.
Somewhere in Bangalore a toddler has been raped by a construction laborer, in Kolkata news of a woman travelling in private cab who was brutally raped by the cabbie hits the headlines of a newspaper, these cases are discussed by media in debates and shared all over Facebook.
Somewhere in Bombay, in a corner Meera sits wrapping her night gown tighter, reading the post about the young woman who got raped in the cab and public rage that pours against the law and support in her favor, and she wonders - they are no takers for my case for marital rape is not a crime, it is a right- isn't it?